Getty Museum denies interest in Leonardo da Vinci painting
The J. Paul Getty Museum said Wednesday it had no current interest in attempting to acquire Leonardo da Vinci's panel painting, "Christ as Salvator Mundi," one of just two of the 14 surviving portable paintings by the Renaissance artist not already in a museum's permanent collection. The work, authenticated in the spring by numerous scholars, is now in the unprecedented exhibition "Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan" at London's National Gallery.
David Bomford, acting director of the Getty Museum, said only that "other acquisitions" being considered by the Brentwood institution precluded the effort. Bomford, who was speaking to The Times' editorial board, is a former paintings conservator and head registrar at the London museum where the Leonardo exhibition is taking place.
The panel, painted sometime after 1499, shows a bust-length figure of Christ raising his right hand in benediction while holding a rock crystal sphere representing earthly perfection in his left hand. Once owned by England's Charles I, it has some areas of paint loss and abrasion, as well as a crack in the walnut support.
"Christ as Salvator Mundi" is owned by a consortium of art dealers, including Robert Simon Fine Art in New York. Reports have placed its value at around $200 million. Simon told Art + Auction in July that preliminary discussions had taken place with one museum but he emphasized that the painting had since been withdrawn from the market. It is not uncommon for dealer-owned paintings in major museum exhibitions not to be for sale.
The National Gallery in Washington is the only museum outside Europe to own a Leonardo painting.
-- Christopher Knight
Photo: Visitors queue up outside London's National Gallery for "Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan." Credit: Andy Rain/EPA